House-Church or Congregational Prayer-Groups
I have discovered within some Christian churches that we believers in Jesus Christ have a very powerful tool in prayer-groups. But very sadly, due to the hierarchal and over-controlling nature of the Worldwide Church of God, and some of the splinter denominations that came from it, this powerful prayer-tool, which Satan would view as a deadly prayer-weapon, has been totally ignored. Some hierarchal types have even gone so far as to preach that Matthew 18:19-20 should only be done by ordained ministers (because they are afraid of any ordinary member usurping their authority). That is sort of like telling the Marines in the Battle of Guadal Canal that only West Point trained officers could man and use their famous Browning M1917 30-Caliber water-cooled machine guns. If such a foolish order had been given to them, the Japanese would have continued to hold Guadal Canal and Henderson Airfield, and would have driven the Marines off the island, slaughtering most of them. Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that prayer-groups have to be run by ministers, and nowhere in Matthew 18 is any indication given of such foolishness. I helped set up one of these tiny house-church prayer-groups, and helped them get it going, before dropping out and letting them fly on their own. In the period of time I was part of this prayer-group well over three quarters of all the prayer requests which we had prayed were answered (17 major requests over a nine-month period of time). Some of the answers came in very quickly and powerfully. Others took time. We would keep praying for a request, each time we met, until it was either answered, or God showed us his will was different for that request. Sometimes we could sense God changing our prayers as we prayed them. Let’s read Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” God is involved, directly within the group. Jesus is right there in our midst by means of the very indwelling Holy Spirit within all the believers who are present. It is just like Jesus is sitting right there in our midst. Hierarchal type churches, ministers and denominations will reject this powerful prayer-weapon, simply because they want to maintain “control” over everything that is done. They don’t even want believers from their churches meeting together without a “deacon” present. Jesus says nothing about that nonsense. The proof that these hierarchal types have got it all wrong was in the pudding, the results we obtained, the miraculous number of answered prayers we received, often in a short period of time. Do you want to be a machine-gunner or a morterman in God’s army, and be devastating to Satan’s realm? Start a prayer-group. Also these same identical prayer-groups can be used by Christian families, within their family units. Children, with their childlike faith, have proven to be highly effective when they pray together for something. And by including your children in your family prayer-group, you will be teaching them to pray, thus cementing their connection to God early on in their lives. Do not neglect giving them such a powerful tool early in their lives. Below are some of the guidelines we worked out within our tiny house-church prayer group.
1. These highly focused prayer groups for house-churches or congregations are to have no more than 4 to 5 members, maximum. This is due to the sensitive and personal nature of some of the prayer-requests being prayed. The prayer-group is highly focused toward maintaining spiritual and doctrinal unity, and helping gain God’s assistance in that area as well as unity amongst members and their families. These groups are for the spiritual health and good of the house-church or congregation they support. The reason for keeping the number in the group small is due to the sensitivity and personal nature of the prayer-journals each group will maintain, which helps maintain the focus of the group. Also, large groups get unwieldy. Should more desire to join, the key is to form new prayer-groups as the numbers grow larger than 4 to 5, 6 at the largest (say three families of two each).
2. Due to the highly personal and sensitive nature of the information in the group’s prayer-journals, they are not to be emailed or passed around to anyone outside the prayer-group. Separate prayer requests can be sent and shared with the moderators of other prayer groups, for less sensitive things like for the healing of an individual, which would be more or less general information. The reason for having a journal in the first place, is that it helps the group stay focused without having to rush around trying to figure out what we prayed about the previous week, and what still needs prayer this week, what has been answered, what has not, order of priorities—not having a journal would cut into the precious half hour to 3/4s of an hour we have to pray in. In essence prayer requests that have not received an answer get prayed again, just as in personal prayer, practicing persistence in a humble way. If maintaining a computer version for your journal, each member of the prayer-group will receive their own copy of their group’s prayer-journal, so they can pray for those things during the week. Update pages will be provided at the beginning of each prayer-meeting by the moderator. Discarded pages are to be shredded or burned, not simply thrown in the trash. Personal copies of journals are to be kept locked away in a safe place, and never openly left lying around at home or in services.
3. Prayer-group meetings cannot be used as a platform for the personal correction of a member of the prayer-group. It leads to public humiliation of a member and potential break-up of the group. Personal Matthew 18 type corrections—if felt necessary—are to be kept OUTSIDE of the prayer-group—to protect the integrity and unity of the group.
4. Family Prayer-groups: What ought to be pointed out within your congregation or house-church is that each and every family can have their own prayer-group ministry, composed of their own converted family members as well as their children (God loves the prayers of our children). Families can and should have and maintain their own family prayer-groups that more or less duplicate the house-church prayer group. Nobody should feel left out of this movement. I grew up in an era where the TV and Radio ad was extant that said, “The Family That Prays Together Stays Together.” I suggest we make that our motto.
5. Each house-church prayer-group is to have a moderator who oversees the group, and maintains that group’s prayer-journal, or entrusts it to one of the members for such maintenance. The moderator(s) should be the host and/or hostess of the house-church (reason explained below). In congregations, the pastor could chose the moderator, to get things going. As the number of groups grow, each group could chose its own moderator(s).
6. The moderator will also be in charge of inviting 3 to 4 other individuals into the house-church or congregational prayer-group whom he or she knows are spiritually-doctrinally sound, people whom he knows will not be carrying any spiritual-doctrinal ‘personal agendas’ into the prayer-group (hidden agendas can block a group from obtaining answers from God, I’ve seen it happen). (A member can have a differing doctrinal view on some issues, but it must not be their active agenda to promote it via the prayer-group. None of us will achieve pure doctrinal unity until Jesus comes, let’s face it folks.) Also the moderator must be sure to only choose members that they’re sure are not living in a sinful lifestyle. (To be working on sins you still have is not to be considered as unrepentant, or else none of us would qualify to be in a prayer-group!). The moderator should be the host and/or hostess of the house-church. As to how to choose, the host and hostess of the house-church, now the moderators, should start the prayer-group, only including themselves at first. And then they should pray about who to select next as another member, adding that person to the group, and so forth until you have a group of about 4 or 5 people, praying all the while that God’s Spirit would lead them which people to select be a part of their weekly get-together. With house-churches, Why the host and hostess as the moderator(s) for the prayer-groups and the ones to choose whom to add to the group? Because they know the dynamics of their house-church group better than anyone else.
Notice: Due to the highly personal and sensitive nature of the information contained within your prayer-journals, they should not to be emailed or passed around to anyone outside this prayer-group, nor should your journals be left around in plain sight, at home or within services. Personal family journals should be treated in the same way, as personal information concerning that family should not go outside that family, even though each family member will have access to their family journal. A computer version of your journal can be maintained, using a color code, as below, or a simple prayer-journal notebook can be maintained by the moderator. If a computer version is maintained and updated, updated print-outs can be handed to each participant every time you meet for your prayer-meeting. A prayer-journal notebook is a far simpler way to go, with each prayer request listed on the left-hand page, and answers received (along with date of answer) on the right hand page (one request per page to avoid confusion). The computerized version of a journal can get bulky and unwieldy without constant ‘house-cleaning.’ I did this by moving answered prayer-requests to a separate section or file, so as to always keep the request part of the journal as small and simple as possible. Do whatever works for you.
Legend (for the computer maintained version):
Bold black print: Prayer Requests (numbered sequentially and dated)
Bold Dark red-brown print: Answered Prayer Requests
Bold green print, and dated: The answer to that Prayer Request
Basic theme for the group: unity in our house-church or congregation and its members, spiritually, doctrinally, and amongst their family members, and unity in the greater body of Sabbatarian Churches of God.
Core verses prayer-groups are based on:
Matthew 18:19-20, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”
2nd Corinthians 10:3-6, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.”
1. Father in heaven, please heal the division that exists within the Sabbatarian Churches of God that, making them non-toxic and to the extent that You desire, non-hierarchal in structure. Each one of the leaders within the Sabbath-keeping Church of God denominations has talents the other does not have, and each one has weaknesses that other does not have. As the toxic churches seem to go through one split after another, not over doctrine, but politics, the good and healthy churches ought to be exhibiting the opposite spirit, a spirit of unity, love, peace and friendship---manifesting the Four Freedoms of the Believer---and as such, they ought to be unifying, going in the opposite direction as the toxic churches in this area of unity. Father in heaven it was Jesus’ last prayer to you in Gethsemane that his disciples throughout time would be unified and have unity, so this request is within the scope of your will, and most appropriate to the Passover-Pentecost season.
2. Healing or solving of any spiritually or doctrinally divisive issues within the house-church or congregation, be they caused by an individual or a belief that’s taken hold that does not belong (i.e. real heresy). Help us to, as well, live by and promote the “Four Freedoms of the Believer,” so that our congregation stays friendly and accepting of all true believers who may wish to fellowship with us.
3. Healing or solving of any bad or dangerous situation with any family member of the house-church or congregation (whether they’re believers or not).
4. Healing of members from serious and/or life-threatening illnesses and diseases.
5. Calling of unconverted mates, and intervention in their lives or the lives of their friends or co-workers which may contribute to their calling.
6. Calling of our siblings, real and adoptive, and intervention in their lives or the lives of their friends and co-workers which may contribute to their calling.
(working example of that, where dynamic answers are in progress):
John, my son’s boss, his wife Deb has inoperable cancer. Chemo seems to be working. Please let it work and drive it into total remission.
Answer so far: So far, Deb has been through a serious brain operation that most don’t survive, and did ok. Just recently the doctors told her “the cancer markers” were diminishing, which equates to the amount of cancer in her body is going way down. She’s been on chemo and radiation treatment for about two months, and they say most patients don’t have their “cancer markers” start to go down for at least 8 months! Originally their prognosis was that she was going to die. Now their prognosis is she’s going to live. She’s not out of the woods yet, so please keep healing her. Also, Deb has just broken her hip due to low calcium resulting from her medications. Please intervene and help her hip mend as fast as possible.
(my son and even my daughter-in-law are very aware the prayers of our prayer-group are being dynamically answered here in the above instance. Where Deb was expected to die within three months, she’s now lived about 18 months and is still progressing in her healing. If you feel like praying for her, her name is Deb Chavez.)
This would include the finding of jobs for members or their family members out of work, whether they are believers or not.
7. Father in Heaven please draw into our house-church or congregation any Sabbatarian Church of God members who may be out there, going it alone due to all the denominational division, anyone in spiritual need who may be out there within range of our house-church or congregation. Father in heaven, we know a great number of tiny doctrinally divisive issues can be healed by the acceptance of Ron Dart’s “Four Freedoms of the Believer,” as well as bringing about the healing of wrong hierarchal abuses. Help us to all live by and promote them, so that our house-church (or congregation) can be one of the friendliest and most accepting of all who would desire to attend with us.
At the beginning of each prayer-meeting, be sure to give thanks and praise to God for answers to prayers which have come in that week. Some house-churches are small enough so that everyone can be in the group. If a group gets too large and unwieldy, break it into two groups, or three, or as many as needs be. One thing I’ve discovered, women love to be in these groups, whereas men tend to shy away from them. I found being in such a group a spiritually invigorating experience. You guys need to drop your false notions that prayer isn’t manly.
The Four Freedoms of the Believer
What Have We Learned?
What is one of the major evils, sins most of the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God denominations have “inherited” from their parent church, the Worldwide Church of God? Ron Dart, a former evangelist in the Worldwide Church of God, sums it up quite well when he says “Christians may not have recognized their own motives, the WCG may not either…I don’t know how much of a role old habits played in HWA’s evangelistic efforts, but I do know he looked for differentiation, and he did so adversarially, as an adman naturally would. What he wanted were wedge issues: issues that could be used to drive a wedge between a person and his old church so the person could be attracted to the WCG. And he wanted exclusive use of the product. He didn’t want you coming to church with him this week and going somewhere else next week. The wedge issues are familiar: born again, heaven…, Sabbath and Sunday, pagan holidays, immortal soul, etc. But, in typical adman style, Mr. Armstrong advanced these with hyperbole and often took them too far in the attempt to differentiate. [i.e. to draw people from their churches into the WCG.] Other products (read denominations or churches) were demonized to complete the sale. The long and the short [of this was], one of the by-products of this [evangelistic] approach was a church that was long on hostility and short on tolerance.” Ron Dart continues under the heading of “Christ Does Not Put One in the Church?” where he says, “One of the demons of differentiation is vanity. ‘We are better than you are.’ ‘We have the truth and you don’t.’ Arrogance is the bitter fruit of vanity. Another demon is exclusivism. Yet another is authoritarianism, necessary to keep us exclusive: “You can’t join the church; Christ has to put you into it”---which means we have to approve you and we can blackball you. I don’t think we should be driven by the demons of differentiation. Rather, we should be drawn to Christ, where we will find our differences accepted or corrected as need be---and where we can find ourselves together in ways unexpected and unanticipated. Some are finding it difficult to relate to other Sabbatarian groups because they lose some of their identity in the process…” (Dart R. Beware of the demons of differentiation. The Journal, January 31, 2003, p.10) What Ron Dart describes here, these demons of exclusivism, authoritarianism, vanity and arrogance are exactly opposite of God’s agape-love he’s told us to be growing in (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/Agape/Agape%20I.htm. If you want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, be sure to log onto and study that awesome series on what Agape is.)
The Four Freedoms of the Believer
The four basic freedoms of the believer are succinctly listed by Ron Dart here. I found myself, looking back into my WCG experience, quietly living by these freedoms, although I didn’t fully realize it. Did that make me a rebel, an independent, or did I just internally realize within my heart what my God-given spiritual rights were as a believer in Jesus Christ? Let’s take a good look at these four freedoms, as so well expressed again by Ron Dart: “…we believe a church should be committed to the following four freedoms: 1) Freedom of Association. A church should not discriminate between members upon whether they associate with other persons, churches or groups, but rather should encourage a spirit of cooperation and communication. 2) Freedom of Giving. A church should not require members to give or tithe to the church either in whole or in part, although normal fund-raising is appropriate. Tithing and giving are acts of personal worship and must not be interfered with by anyone. [And I might add, if your church or denomination is acting as it should, really nurturing your members spiritually, and doing a superior job in evangelizing the world as Christ calls for, then your members will be properly motivated by that fact to give most or all their tithes to the church and/or denomination they attend. I’ve seen this principle work in a major denomination, and they’re never short of cash. It takes real faith for a denomination to grant this particular freedom to their members though.] 3) Freedom of Conscience. A church should not discriminate between members based on their privately held beliefs. They may, however, require certain practices as a condition of full membership or office (such as Sabbath and festival attendance.) [Boy, have I recently discovered what it feels like to come under that “discrimination.” Churches that do not grant this freedom of conscience tend to be toxic, abusive and unfriendly---and they do not grow.] 4) Freedom of Attendance. A church should not discriminate or sanction member attendance except in cases of egregious misconduct (I Corinthians 5:1 ff.) disturbing services, or willfully causing division. For instance, a person will not be barred from church attendance because he or she is still struggling with the Sabbath…”[or I might add, Freedom # 3, they will not be barred or ostracized or disfellowshipped for having differing privately held beliefs which are secondary in nature.] (Dart, Ronald, Why CEM?...4/12/03) [My comments in [ ] brackets.]
Church congregations that live by and maintain these Four Freedoms of the Believer are usually pleasant and very friendly, a joy to attend, as the attitudes of being judgmental of others are left at the door. You might consider adopting them for your own church.